Last updated: 04:20 PM ET, Wed August 17 2016

Rio's Hotel Rooms Could Be Very Cheap after the Olympics

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | August 17, 2016

Rio's Hotel Rooms Could Be Very Cheap after the Olympics

 Photo: Christ the Redeemer in Rio. (Photo courtesy of Embratur) 

It looks like tourists who want to visit Rio de Janeiro after the Olympics will be able to save some money on their hotel room. 

After the Olympics are over, the iconic city will have a excessive number of hotel rooms. Like other host cities, the hope is that the Games will bring new interest from tourists who saw Rio in the background during the two weeks of competition.

Since Rio's occupancy rates have been falling since the 2014 FIFA World Cup, it seems unlikely that Olympic-inspired tourism will have a huge effect on price. 

Too many rooms, not enough guests 

Rio’s tourism industry may benefit from its time in the spotlight, but it seems very unlikely that the post-Olympic buzz will be big enough to fill all the extra hotel rooms that were added in anticipation of the Games. Actually, the number of international arrivals to Brazil fell in 2015 as the country struggled with an image problem brought on by the Zika virus and ongoing civil unrest. So, rather than a spike in the number of tourists, the Games may only bring Brazil back to 2014 levels. 

There is a precedent for how the local hotel industry fared after a major event. Rio was an important site for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It hosted a number of matches, including the final. During the 2014 Cup, Rio’s hotel rooms were 80 percent full. Two years later, just before the Olympics, the city only had a 44 percent occupancy rate. And that number does not take into account guesthouses and Airbnb offerings. 

According to hotel researchers STR, Rio currently has 27,134 hotel rooms. The sheer number of rooms and the uncertainty over whether Rio’s image was helped or hurt during the Games makes sub-50-percent occupancy seem more and more likely after the Olympics. 

Will the Olympics help tourism?

Zika fears seem overblown, but a number of reports of robbery involving athletes and Olympic tourists certainly won’t help Rio’s image. 

The Olympics can indeed boost tourism. A year after London’s 2012 Games, international arrivals to the UK were up. Brazil is a much bigger country and this year’s Games were not as smooth as London’s, so modest gains are probably most that hoteliers in the country can hope for. 

Read More: Brazil Hoping Rio Olympics Will Boost Sagging Hotel Traffic

What does this mean for tourists?

Rio’s hotels are probably going to be lowering rates as they seek to fill their rooms. As long as the economy is still lagging in the country, domestic tourists—usually the backbone of Rio’s tourism industry—won’t affect this trend. Before the Games, hotels were slashing rates in an effort to fill rooms, and it seems likely that they will take the same approach after the Games as well. 

Airbnb has streamlined its operation in the city, so there are even more rooms to add to the "official hotel" room count.

The best time to find cheap rooms in Rio

In fact, the room-sharing site offers a glimpse into what the post-Olympics Rio tourism scene could look like. Airbnb has seen a surge in domestic users in Brazil. Only six percent of Airbnb guests during the 2014 World Cup were Brazilian. By the end of 2015, however, 50 percent of the people who booked rooms in the country were domestic travelers. Since the country's economy is expected, eventually, to improve, domestic tourism will once again be the main source of income for the hotel and room-sharing industries. 

That means that there could be an ideal window for thrifty tourists to visit Rio. If they come after the Games but before Brazil’s economy gets back on track, they could save a lot of money on their hotel room. 

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